Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Peregrine take approved in Florida

Photo: Go to MyFWC.com/Newsroom and click on the headline for this story.

FWC approves rule to allow peregrine falcons for falconry in Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a rule allowing falconers to take peregrine falcons for the sport of falconry at its meeting in Clewiston on Wednesday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines the number of falcons that may be taken over a broad range of states. It is estimated fewer than five falcons will be allocated to Florida in 2010. Under the new rule, falconers must receive a permit for the take of peregrine falcons for falconry. The FWC will randomly select applications and issue permits annually based on the number allotted to the state. Priority for receiving a permit will be given to Florida residents.

Peregrine populations plummeted because of the use of DDT since the 1940s in the United States. After DDT use was restricted in the 1970s, populations significantly increased. The USFWS took the peregrine off the endangered species list in 1999, and the FWC delisted the peregrine falcon in June 2009, making it one of conservation’s greatest success stories. Today, scientists estimate there are at least 3,100 breeding pairs in the United States.

“This is a historic moment for falconers, and we strongly approve staff’s recommendation,” said Eric Edwards of the Florida Falconers Association and North American Falconers Association. “It has been a privilege working with FWC staff through this process.”

The peregrine is a highly valued bird by falconers for its nearly 200-mph dives for prey. Falcons have been used by people for hunting for more than 1,000 years.
“Falconers contributed to the successful conservation of the peregrine by providing birds for captive breeding so peregrines could be reintroduced,” said Robin Boughton, the FWC’s avian coordinator. “Many falconers will now have the opportunity to again use the birds in the sport of falconry.”

Seven speakers, including members of groups such as the Florida Falconry Association, North American Falconers Association, Audubon of Florida and Defenders of Wildlife, spoke at the meeting.

“Audubon views the peregrine as an iconic species, and we have concerns regarding lack of monitoring in Florida to help ensure no future decline in this species,” said Julie Wraithmell of Audubon of Florida. “We hope the Commission will help promote conservation of the species by funding monitoring projects.”

The FWC met with stakeholders, including falconers and conservation groups, as the agency developed a management plan for the peregrine, which was approved in June. Staff continued working with stakeholders through the process of creating the rule to allow harvest of the peregrine for falconry.

Peregrines migrate as much as 18,000 miles per year, and on average, 1,790 peregrines migrate through the Florida Keys in the fall as they move between northern breeding grounds and wintering areas in Central and South America. Some peregrines stay the entire winter in the state, but they do not breed in Florida. They can be spotted in the fall and winter over open terrain, particularly near coastal shorelines and wetlands.